‘Throw the book’ at turkey protesters

Animal activists who occupied a Fort Macleod, Alta., area turkey operation Sept. 2 should be charged to the full extent of the law.

So said Alberta Premier Jason Kenney when asked about the case Sept. 13.

“I certainly hope the police lay charges and I hope that prosecutors throw the book at these criminals, who violated multiple laws as far as I can tell, in that outrageous act of criminality that was dangerous for themselves, the farmers and I suspect for the birds as well,” said Kenney.

The Labour Day incident involved about 90 protesters who arrived at the Jumbo Valley Hutterite Colony turkey operation in the early morning. About 30 sat inside a barn housing mature turkeys and others held signs along nearby Highway 2 asking for animal liberation.

RCMP responded and the protesters left the farm about seven hours later in possession of five live turkeys, which they said would be taken to a sanctuary.

An investigation continues and no charges were laid as of last week.

“I just think this was not just an attack on that one turkey farm. It was an attack on all of agriculture and if we let the same radicals get away with defaming our farmers the same way they have defamed our oil and gas industry, it’s going to be very bad news for the people who feed us,” Kenney said.

The premier said Agriculture Minister Devin Dreeshen has consulted with Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer regarding actions the province can take to bring about stronger sanctions against those who undertake similar activities.

Schweitzer has undertaken an Alberta tour to discuss rural crime and was scheduled to hold meetings in Lethbridge and Coaldale on Sept. 17. Stops in Airdrie, Drumheller, Drayton Valley, Okotoks, Raymond and Medicine Hat are to follow.

“Obviously the police are independent but I sure hope they’re taking this case really seriously. I hope they don’t just slough it off because they think it’s just, quotes, just a poultry farm. This is about protecting law-abiding farmers in their ability to feed our society,” Kenney said.

Application of the criminal code is a federal responsibility. Mark Tschetter, minister of the Jumbo Valley colony, said he and Fort Macleod RCMP officers have discussed various potential charges in the incident, including break and enter, trespass, mischief and possibly extortion, the latter because of protesters’ demands to be given the five turkeys.

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